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Maryland, Virginia and Army Corps of Engineers Agree to Preferred Alternative for Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration
Annapolis, Md. (April 7, 2009) - The Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) Executive Committee yesterday announced their agreement to identify a native-only restoration strategy as the preferred alternative in the final PEIS due to be published in late June. The Governors of Maryland and Virginia praised the decision.
"Over the past two years, the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia have built an unprecedented partnership to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its living resources," said Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. "I am extremely pleased that, together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we have reached an agreement on a preferred oyster restoration alternative, one that will not threaten the Bay's already stressed ecosystem. We look forward to finalizing this process over the next few months, and to collaborating with our partners in Virginia to use new science developed through this extraordinary study to support both the ecological restoration of our native oyster and the revitalization of our oyster industry with emphasis on new aquaculture opportunities."
On Friday, April 3, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources submitted a proposal for federal stimulus funds in the amount of $10 million to fund oyster related projects. The proposal included projects to recreate and/or place natural/alternative oyster reef substrate, produce and plant oyster spat and enhance hatchery productivity and monitor oyster populations and water quality for oyster health on restoration sites. The State of Maryland currently has $5 million slated for oyster projects during Fiscal Year 2009, which will supplemented by additional funding from federal partners: $1 million via Army Corps of Engineers and $2.6 million from NOAA through the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
"Virginia has long been committed to finding solutions that address the decline in oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and we're proud of the collaborative progress we've made through a strong regional partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland, and federal agencies," said Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine. "While we have seen certain promise in ariakensis aquaculture from the Virginia Seafood Council trials over the past seven years, we agree-based on the recommendations of our Virginia Institute of Marine Science-that moving forward we should focus primarily on restoring the Bay's native oyster. We're pleased the Corps will allow for possible continued ariakensis experiments under tightly-controlled conditions so that we can continue answering scientific questions in the future."
The Army Corps of engineers commended the Committee’s cooperative efforts.
“Based on the current state of the science and extensive public review, the use of non-native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, its tidal tributaries and the coastal bays and waters of Maryland and Virginia poses ecological risks. Therefore, it is prudent for us to adopt a native oyster alternative, while allowing for scientific research for improving our understanding of non-native oyster ecology and restoration implications. This is critical since the PEIS was inclusive whether the native oyster can make a full comeback Bay wide,” said Col. Dionysios “Dan” Anninos, Norfolk District commander, during a media teleconference.
A 30-day public comment period will follow publication of the final PEIS, with a formal Record of Decision expected to be published in late July.
The Executive Committee includes the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the secretaries of natural resources for the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia, working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Following is the complete joint statement agreed to by the Committee:
Based on the current state of the science, and extensive public discourse the use of non-native oysters in Chesapeake Bay, its tidal tributaries, and the coastal bays and waters of Maryland and Virginia poses unacceptable ecological risks. Therefore, it is prudent for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) to adopt a native oyster only preferred alternative for purposes of the PEIS. In selecting the native oyster alternative, the Corps, together with the cooperating federal agencies, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will remain fully committed to using only the native oyster to work towards revitalizing oyster restoration and aquaculture in meeting commercial and ecological goals. Furthermore, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will work towards implementing biologically and economically sustainable harvesting measures for the public oyster fishery. Finally, the Corps, together with the cooperating federal agencies, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will pursue the establishment of realistic metrics, accountability measures and a performance based adaptive management methodology for all efforts in revitalizing the native oyster for purposes of achieving commercial and ecological goals.
In selecting this preferred alternative, the Corps is aware that future scientific investigation may be proposed for purposes of improving our understanding of non-native oyster ecology and restoration implications. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will consider such proposals only when they are part of a scientific research framework. The research framework must be reviewed and approved by the PEIS lead and cooperating agencies and PRFC. A key criterion for approval of any such proposal will be to demonstrate that the proposal will not pose unacceptable ecological and socio-economic risks. Utilizing established regulatory process, the review of any such proposal will include consultation with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and a process agreed to by the partner agencies to obtain scientific advice and peer review similar to that which was utilized for the development of this PEIS.
April 7, 2009
Contact: Ray Weaver
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov